By Marty Gordon
The New Year’s Eve bowl game in Charlotte has gone through several iterations since its inception in 2002. Its original name was the Queen City Bowl. Then it morphed into the Continental Bowl (2002-2004), and then got all dressed up as the Meineke Car Care Bowl (2005-2010). Since then the retailer Belk has been the major sponsor, but the game is searching for a new sponsor for next year as Belk as said it would not return.
The game currently features the matchup of a Southeastern Conference team and an Atlantic Coast Conference team, but the bowl will take an interesting twist next year. The Big Ten Conference will alternate with the SEC on even-numbered years. The SEC will remain for odd-numbered years. The conference not playing in the Charlotte bowl game will play in the Las Vegas Bowl.
According to the Las Vegas betting lines, Virginia Tech is a three-point favorite for this year’s game. The game is set for a noon kickoff on December 31 and will be televised on ESPN.
With a win, Virginia Tech would secure its third season of more than eight wins during Justin Fuente four years as the head Hokie.
The 2019 Belk Bowl marks the 20th meeting between Kentucky and Virginia Tech, dating back to 1926.
Ten of the ACC’s current 14-member schools have appeared in this bowl game. Those not appearing as of yet are Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami and Syracuse. Both of Pitts’ appearances, one of Boston College’s and one of Louisville’s came while they were members of the Big East Conference.
The University of North Carolina has appeared four times in this bowl game.
The Hokies completed the largest comeback in school history in the 2016 Belk Bowl. Trailing Arkansas by a 24-0 margin at halftime, Tech ripped off 35 unanswered points for a 35-24 victory (12/29/16).
The Hokies have one player from the Commonwealth of Kentucky on their roster: freshman center Bryan Hudson (Georgetown). The Wildcats have a single player from the Commonwealth of Virginia on their roster: defensive back Ben Drake (Charlottesville).
Virginia Tech has some 13 high-school quarterbacks on its roster that now play a variety of positions including cornerback Caleb Farley, who leads the ACC with 16 passes defensed and is tied for the conference lead with four interceptions; tight end James Mitchell, who has 18 receptions for 325 yards with two touchdowns to go with four rushing touchdowns this season; and wide receiver Tayvion Robinson, who is tied for the team lead with 26 receptions and has 341 received yards with one touchdown, has nine punt returns for 112 yards and ten carries for 127 yards.